Winter Walk #3

On Friday March 24, we had our third winter walk… after a mostly snow-free and rather warm winter, last week we got well over a foot of snow in Ithaca. Schools (including Cornell) were closed for 2 days, and we all did a bit of skiing. The ground has retained more snow cover from this storm than it had all winter. Nonetheless, a thaw began, and this morning we woke to rain.  But in Hammond Hill State Forest, 10 miles east of campus, the forest got a spectacular glaze of ice.

Gregor, Anna, Anurag, Hide, Aaron, Sylvia, Kevin, and Patty (Katie pictured below)

It was off-and-on raining out there, along with major ice falls from the glazed trees.  A lot of water flowing and melting.  We weren’t sure what the foamy accumulations were on tree bark, mostly on maples.  We agreed that there was a lot of pre-decomposition going on in the bark ecosystem… with the release of all sorts of nutrients and proteins.  Several trees, especially ashes, seemed to have a bark-off-flow that colored snow yellow extending from the base of the trunk.   The transfer of such nutrients was considered as “tree urine”

A huge (open grown) specimen of hop horn beam: Ostrya virginiana, a sub-canopy tree in the birch family.
A nest from last year (2016 breeding season) of a Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus). Thnx to Scott Taylor and Vanya Rohwer for the ID. Vanya says the Red-eyed typically has a “coarse” nest lining compared to Blue-headed or Warbling Vireos.

The forest was dominated by red oak, sugar maple, white ash, black cherry, and black birch, with some beech, and striped maple.  Parts of the forest were dominated by hemlock and white pine, while others were dominated by ash or cherry. In a grove of black cherry, several of the trees were split into two main trunks in a V, like the one above, and we stumbled on a recent break and fall (below).  Lightening was not implicated, and there was a large blue stain fungus eating away at the beautiful dead wood (one of the two species of Chlorociboria).    

Decaying tree stump eats deer on a sunny winter day in Ithaca

We had Mohler, Marks, & Gardescu’s book with us, but as we were trying to categorize the forest type in the rain, we didn’t realize that one of their “type communities” was Hammond Hill State Forest!  Clearly an moist upland forest, but we felt like we were walking along some transitions from the Pine-Hemlock type to Maple-Beech.  Beech was not that abundant on the “Trail 1-2” loop, but perhaps it has been disappearing in recent years.

Norway Spruce glazed with ice (photo by Katie Holmes).

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